‘It’s humiliating when someone tuts at you for using a disabled loo’
Mesha lost over a stone in three days but was told by three doctors that he had gastroenteritis.
Two years after his diagnosis, Mesha decided to have an operation to have a stoma created, where an ileostomy bag is attached. This means that his body now bypasses the large intestine and the waste is collected in the bag that sits outside his body. Now, he works as a personal trainer and when his bag his hidden under his clothes, it is difficult to tell that anything is wrong. He says that the way he looks often leads to judgement from other people, especially when he uses a disabled bathroom as he needs more space to change his bag. He explains: ‘I’ve had people say things like “you don’t look sick” a lot. ‘I’ve been shouted at, tutted at and had people shake their heads for me using a disabled toilet on numerous occasions.
‘I need to use them as when having to change a bag you need more space than a standard cubicle, as well as having a bin nearby. ‘It can be very humiliating and frustrating when you feel like you have to explain yourself.’ Mesha started to experience problems when he woke up in the middle of the night in May 2013, with stomach pain.
Eventually, he was rushed to hospital as he was vomiting green bile and he was diagnosed with a burst appendix. He was in a coma for three weeks, went from 11.5 stone to six stone and was given a 20% chance of survival. When he woke up, doctors told him he would be in hospital for about six months but Mesha worked incredibly hard and left the hospital after just four weeks. Eight months later, he was back at a healthy weight but he started to experience more health problems.
At first, he had a swollen foot and a break out of hives, but after that cleared up he started to suffer from frequent diarrhoea, which also had blood in it. He also had a swollen, painful stomach, rapidly lost weight and he had extreme fatigue. Mesha explains: ‘I thought it was just because of the operation but after a few months of this, I knew it had to be something more.’ It took eight months of going back and forth to the doctor before he was eventually referred for blood tests and a colonoscopy, which led to a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.
He says: ‘When I was told what it was, there was almost a sense of relief as I was experiencing a number of symptoms. ‘I couldn’t live like a normal 23-year-old. I was going to the toilet 40+ times a day, had chronic fatigue.’ He started medication to try to control his symptoms and he tried to change his diet but nothing really worked, and he was still making around 30 trips to the toilet every day.
In 2015, he graduated from his degree in high-performance coaching and nutrition and he started working as a personal trainer, but he admits he found it even more difficult to manage his colitis alongside his work. After four years of taking medication, he decided to opt to have a stoma and ileostomy bag fitted, which he says has completely changed his life. It took him three months to recover from the operation, slowly building up strength again but then he returned to work and he has learnt to love life with his ileostomy bag.